By Karen A. Soukiasian
Summer may be waning, but there are still some hot days on the horizon. Be sure to protect your dog from summer’s heat and know the warning signs of hypertension in dogs.
The body temperature of dogs vary, but anything over 103° F, means your dog is in a danger zone. When the ambient temperature is between 85°- 90° F, they often show signs of distress. However, heat and humidity aren’t the only factors causing hypertension in dogs.
Brachycepthalic breeds such as Boxers, Pugs, Pekingese, Bulldogs, and Mastiffs are high on the list of candidates for hypertension. Their short noses do not allow enough time for air to adequately cool before reaching their lungs.
Working, obese, giant breeds, and senior dogs are also more at risk. Puppies of any breed usually need someone to remind them to take a break, have a drink, and cool off!
The most common causes of heatstroke are, dogs left in cars, kept in unventilated plastic crates too long, left in unventilated rooms or garages, muzzled in hot, humid conditions, obesity, age, over-exercised, grooming dryers and drying rooms, heart and lung diseases, fever, seizures, lack of water, lack of shade, and kept on asphalt or concrete too long.
Limit walks, jogging, strenuous exercise, and outdoor playtime to the cooler times of the day. Keep playtime in shadier areas of your yard. Always keep water and a towel available.
Less common, but also important to know is, in addition to excessive thyroid levels and lesions on the hypothalamus, both which regulate body temperature; poisoning, and complications from anesthesia can also cause your dog’s body temperature to rise to a danger zone.
Signs and Symptoms
Dehydration is often the first signs of a problem. The lack of fluid and electrolytes will cause severe vomiting, diarrhea, lack of elasticity of the skin, dry gums, thick if any saliva, sunken eyes, glazed look, confusion, unsteadiness, and the start of kidney failure.
There are several obvious warning signs indicating your puppy or dog is in distress. They include, but are not limited to, uneasiness, pacing, heavy panting, labored breathing, bright red tongue (frequently extended longer than usual), thick saliva, increased pulse, disoriented, unsteady, vomiting (often bloody), bloody diarrhea, black, tarry stools, difficulty urinating due to little or no urine, tremors, and unconsciousness.
If your pet has reached the point of shock, their lips and gums may turn from red to purple to blue to grey. Their blood may start clotting. They will be unable to stand. Their liver and kidneys start shutting down. They may go into seizures, coma, and ultimately death.
If you suspect your puppy or dog is suffering from heat exhaustion, take their temperature. If it is over 103°F (rectal), immediately start the cooling process. Gently hose or wet them down with cool, not cold water. Get them inside or if that’s not possible, into a shady place. Place cool, wet towels under their forearms and groin area. Place them near a fan if possible. Do not force them to drink water. Squeeze a wet towel with just enough water, (and Gatorade or Pedialyte) carefully into their mouth, so they don’t choke. If they are able to drink, limit their intake, and make sure the water is not too cold.
They know something is wrong, and they are scared! Talk calmly to your pet, to keep them reassured and focused.
Call the nearest veterinarian. Let them know what you suspect and that you are on your way. This will allow them to have the IV fluid therapy ready when you arrive. Wrap your dog in wet towels. Carry them to the vehicle. Do not put them in the back of a truck! Place them in the coolest part of the vehicle, preferably on the floor, as a precaution should they go into a seizure while you transport them to the animal hospital. Ideally, you will have someone with you to help control your dog, should that happen. Speak calmly to your dog, to keep them reassured and focused during transport.
If your dog is in the latter stages, you may need to perform CPR. You may never have to use it, but it never hurts to know it. Check around your area, find someone who teaches Canine CPR.
Bottom line: Hypertension is serious. Know the warning signs. Know what you need and can do, to relieve the stress your dog is suffering before and during transport. Get immediate veterinary help. Minutes count!
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